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Musical fireworks at Green Music Center debut

  • A Steinway piano and an audience wait on stage for pianist Lang Lang on the opening night of the Joan and Sanford J. Weill Hall on the Sonoma State University campus on Saturday night, Sept. 29, 2012.

The new Weill Hall at Sonoma State University made its formal debut on Saturday night with a sparkling recital by one of classical music's rock stars, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, followed by an explosive fireworks show under a harvest moon.

The performance by Lang Lang, whose name means "brilliance of the sky" in Chinese, kicked off the grand opening weekend at the Green Music Center, where three more concerts are scheduled to take place from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today.

Before the concert, SSU President Ruben Armi?na and the hall's namesake donor, financier Sandy Weill, welcomed a crowd of 3,400 to the concert hall that took more than 15 years of dogged fundraising and campus controversy before finally opening its doors.

Green Music Center

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"The bringing together of education, music and performance has been at the core of this project," Armi?na said, thanking his wife, Marne Olson, and the center's more than 1,800 investors and donors. "World-class spaces facilitate and inspire world-class education."

"This is a very exciting moment for all of us," Weill said, pointing to the harvest moon as a lucky sign. "To see a music center like this ... will make the university known all over the world."

Santa Rosa Symphony Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, who has been rehearsing the symphony all week in preparation for their concert at 2 p.m. today, waxed rhapsodic about the acoustics of the hall, which will serve as the symphony's new home.

"We are working very hard, but with thrilling sound results," he said. "It's such a change."

Guests at the pre-concert reception held in the Prelude restaurant adjacent to the hall were abuzz with excitement about the look and feel of the $145 million music center. Based on the Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, the 1,400 seat concert hall boasts a back door that opens to seating for an additional 5,000 people outdoors, including tables set up on terraces. The hall was designed by architect William Rawn Associates and acoustician Kirkegaard Associates.

"It's stunning," said Jennifer Webley of Santa Rosa, who donated $2.1 million to the center with her husband, telecommunications entrepreneur John Webley. "It's absolutely lovely, and all the better to be full of people."

"The space is really unique for Sonoma County," said Richard Sweet of Santa Rosa, who donated a 6-foot Steinway to the Green Music Center's education wing. "It's very organic and warm. It's calming, and it transports you to a different place."


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